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If you are a frequent traveler, you’re certainly familiar with the call for passengers to put their cell phones into “airplane mode” during takeoff and landing of a flight.

You Don’t Need to Use Airplane Mode on Airplanes

I read a recent article on Gizmodo titled “You Don’t Need to Use Airplane Mode on Airplanes“. They quote the fact that Europe is doing away with requiring airplane mode on planes, though Europe’s 5G frequencies are different than the ones used in the United States. Banning cell phone use on airplanes has been a thing in the U.S. since 1991, though in 2005, an FCC member testified before Congress that it was no longer an issue because of pico-cells.

“With advances in cell phone technology since 1991, [the FCC’s] rule banning 800 MHz cell phone use in flight, may not be needed in order to protect the terrestrial or ground-based cellular networks,” said FAA administrator Nicholas Sabatini in his testimony.

What Airplane Mode Does

Gizmodo continues with what they claim is the “real” reason that airplane mode is required

The real reason is this: Airlines think people won’t stop yapping on their cell phones during flights, leading to more instances of “air rage.” That’s why regulators continue to ban phone calls and data usage on planes: it’s just plain annoying.

Air rage—the violent anger directed at flight attendants and passengers caused by the stressors of air travel—is a huge problem in the United States, and it’s getting worse. The FAA reported more than 10,000 unruly passengers between 2021 and 2023, a roughly 300% increase from 2018-2020. However, it’s also the reason myths about airplane mode have persisted.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps this is a situation where I am just confirming my own biases, but I have not put my cell phone into airplane mode in several years. I do not actively text or make phone calls while on a plane, but I also don’t actually turn the phone onto airplane mode. I have to imagine that I am not the only one.

What do you think? Does putting your phone in airplane mode actually do anything? Should the US follow Europe’s lead?

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